Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Niche social media will win the day… and lookout for WordPress

What do you stand for?

It’s my first rule of publishing. If I can’t tell what a magazine, newspaper, website stands for, I pretty much write it off. Communities band around common philosophies, beliefs and goals. And these days in media where information is so commoditised, community is everything.

Social media is still media. The same rules apply. So I say once again: What do you stand for?

Facebook used to stand for something. It was exclusive. It had a reason for being.  College students could virtually socialise knowing that they were doing so within a closed environment. They understood what Facebook stood for. And so they rewarded it with their loyalty.

In return, Facebook has slapped them in the face. It has said, you made us successful, now we’re going to repay you by taking away your treasured exclusivity. And with that, they have instantaneously taken away everything that they stand for.

What does Facebook now stand for? Not a lot.

I doubt it will kill Facebook, it’s going to take a lot for another site to gain the kind of critical mass that it has. But it certainly is vunerable. And over time, I see its dominance in its core market slipping away.

For me, Facebook has gone away from where your so-called social media is heading. It will head towards niche networks, where exclusivity is important. Where value-add is important (and guess what value add can be monetised!). The world of forums, editorial, chatrooms and social-media networks will mould and find a place somewhere in the
middle.

I think I’m reasonably well place to comment because MediaConnect (that’s my business if you haven’t yet read the About Phil bit) is essentially a niche social network for PRs and journalists. It’s exclusive. In fact PRs and Journos can’t even see each other’s sites. We like to think we add value. And I definitely believe we stand for something, that being better reporting and better handling of media relations.

I’ve copped crap in many new-age Web 2.0 blogs with people describing MediaConnect as a “walled garden” but the site and the business can’t stand for what it does without that exclusivity.

So back to Facebook. Now, obviously Facebook has taken the path it has because it’s hit a ceiling. Right now, its probably aiming to be acquired and because its not yet turning big bucks and is probably a long way from doing so, the only metric it can be measured on is subscriber numbers and its valuation is going to likely be compared directly to MySpace.

But what Facebook could have done was use the basis of its technology to launch new social media sites. It could have launched an open site under a different brand and enabled users to simply copy or synchronise their profiles if they wished to appear on both. Even better, it could have kept finding new, little exclusive niches – again giving users the ability to choose what profile appears where.

Social-media technology is now a commodity. I think you’ll find media sites, blogs, etc. start to incorporate the kind of “friends” and groups functionality of MySpace, Facebook, etc into their straight media sites from next year. I’ve already mapped out my plans for that with my 1Eyed project and I’m sure there will be many others go down that route. People sometimes disregard the fact that bulletin boards and forums are social networks, admittedly not as feature rich but for many areas they serve the same purpose.

I’ve taken interesting note that WordPress has recently introduced avatars. IMO that could be the first step down the path of social media extensions for its blogging platform. I reckon WordPress is really perfectly positioned to disrupt this whole space because of its dominant position. Why can’t every blog be the equivalent of a user’s MySpace page. There’s even monetisation possibilities here. Blogs could possibly charge a small amount to join that blog’s social network. What Webtwobees wouldn’t fork out an annual tenner or so to get access to the  TechCrunch network, for example.

And if that situation ever plays out, the first bit of advice I’ll ever have for a blog owner will still be: What do you stand for?

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7 Responses

  1. Rob Irwin says:

    My girlfriend was really into Facebook as a useful college-related tool. Now that it’s changing like this, she is rapidly losing interest in it and, to not put too fine a point on it, is really annoyed with what they’re doing to it.

  2. Nick Carlin says:

    Phil, when all is said and done, when you strip it all away and reveal the core of yourself .. what is there? What do you stand for?

  3. Rob Irwin says:

    I’ve seen Phil stand for a cold beer on occasion.

  4. Knowing Art says:

    I stand for rounded corners, which you don’t have.

    PS: Nice arrows😉

  5. Phil Sim says:

    After long and careful consideration, I’ve decided I stand for squashed cans of Fosters….

  6. Nick Carlin says:

    This may be confrontational of me, but what kind of shallow bastard only stands up for squashed cans of sub-standard australian lager?
    🙂

    I believe that you are in the UK I trust that you are enjoying a pint of real beer.

    PS. You could have stood for apple pie, kangaroo meat and Steve Irwin could you not? !!!

  7. Phil Sim says:

    Nick, it’s well known that I’m a shallow bastard…

    Actually, the only beer I’ve had over here so far was a Peroni at the Italian restaurant we went to last night! Apple pie??

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